Monday, December 28, 2009

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

2 Star

Someone is watching over 66 Star Street in Dublin. The residence with four flats is home to four very different lives. Maeve and Matt appear very much in love, but are silently struggling. Lydia, a taxi cab driver, clashes with her two roommates while Kate is struggling with her relationship with Conall and aging Jemima keeps a keen eye on it all. A force is guiding them, watching and plotting, but just exactly what will happen within these four flats? 

Lydia - 2 Star

The Brightest Star in the Sky is an unusual combination of Single girl lit, Marriage Lit and Fantasy Lit all wrapped up into one and I was unexpectedly disappointed. I have loved everything Marian Keyes has ever written so I’m sad to say this was far from her best. It took me a long time to get into and I even put it down for days before picking it up again which is odd for me.

The narration was odd with some form of ‘spirit’ telling the story in the beginning and then it switched to the other characters perspective only to come back to the spirit occasionally and then at the end. The mystery behind this spirit was enough to keep me interested in finding out what it was (and quite frankly it might have been the only reason).

Keyes writing is impeccable and this novel is no exception. I could picture locations and events with ease. The majority of the problem lay in the characters. I couldn’t relate to them, nor did I really care about most of them. Their inevitable ‘changes’ in some cases just didn’t seem realistic to me which didn’t help, specifically Conall. My other dilemma with this work is that I didn’t get immersed in this story until the last 100 pages when things started to move and thought that much of the first 400 or so pages could have been condensed. Some of the story lines were dark and depressing, but I didn’t find the humorous edge she usually uses to diffuse some of the darkness in her other novels, such as Lola in This Charming Man (which I loved – 5 Star).

I do look forward to more Marian Keyes stories and can’t wait to devour her next one, even after this disappointment.

Kathryn - 2 Star

I found The Brightest Star in the Sky very difficult to get involved in. I’m not sure if it was because there were far too many characters or because none of them really appealed to me. There were so many people with so many lives that I was pretty confused about who was who for a long time.

Now I normally like novels with lots of interesting people in it but I found that even at the beginning of this we switched between storylines quickly so you never got a chance to grab anyone and get into their lives. By about a third of the way in I still didn’t really feel attached to any of them and was starting to get irritated by this thing that was telling the story- or hovering above the story- or whatever it was doing. I felt like it was in the way. By the end we are let in to the secret of what the thing is but I found it annoying.

All the people in the story revolve around a small set of flats and they intermingle with each other creating the storyline. The one person I did like was an older woman called Jemima who was quite astute with her feelings about the others. I also like a girl named Lydia who was so aggressive and grumpy half the time she made me laugh. Most of the others though were forgettable.

I was disappointed by this Keyes novel but as I’ve never disliked anything she’s written I’m going to just move along to her next one when it arrives and get over it!

Connect with Marian Keyes:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Secrets by Freya North

3 Star

Tess flees London with her baby girl, taking a house-sitter position in a seaside village in northern England. The home owner, Joe, is regularly away on business and leaves Tess in charge of his home and scruffy dog. As she begins tidying, she wonders about his past and why he's away from hist gorgeous home so much, just as he starts questioning her blank past.  They both have secrets and with the strong pull toward each other, will they be able to sort them all out and leave them behind? 

Lydia - 3 Star

Unfortunately Secrets didn't captivate me as much as I would have liked. I didn't love it, but didn't hate it either. I found it dragged out in places and it had really long paragraphs which I found distracting especially with reading at night.

At times I felt this novel bore too much resemblance to a Harlequin, with a predictable story and oddly descriptive sex scenes, but there was a huge Brit Lit feel to it which helped ease my trepidation.

I found this to be a really long read and much of it took place in the characters heads which was annoying because I wanted more action instead of them droning on and on. I laughed out loud once and don`t want to give too much away, but it had to do with the spunky ladies at the home in the latter half of the novel. I really laughed hard which I appreciated.

Overall, it was not a terrible read, but Secrets just wasn't my cup of tea.

Kathryn - 3 Star

I picked up Secrets because I was looking for some chick lit that took me somewhere calm and reflective. I wasn’t disappointed. I found it a bit slow to start and I think that the reason it took me a bit to be grabbed was because I’d read two or three novels previously where the story was given very early in the book and this one tested my brain to be patient! As the title indicates, there will be secrets. Some of which don’t unravel until the end.

The story is about Tess who leaves London in a hurry with her baby daughter. She ends up at a seaside village in northern England to become a house-sitter for someone she’s never met. Joe is the house owner who travels most of the time and lives in a great big house with a scruffy dog, both of which need caring for. Tess is a young mother with lots of energy and Joe is a bit older than her and doesn’t quite have the same energy and they both have lots of secrets.

I liked them both and I loved the clear images I had of everything in the novel. The house was imprinted on my brain and I could picture the little girl and the dog perfectly. Freya North is very descriptive without it seeming heavy, which I appreciate. I always really enjoy a novel where I feel connected with the location and not just the people.

If you’re looking for a story with some twists but that ends with people becoming more complete then you’ll enjoy this book.

(Oh and be warned there are some fairly graphic bedroom scenes that completely took me by surprise!)

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Things I Want My Daughters To Know by Elizabeth Noble

4 Star

After watching her daughters struggle, a terminally ill mother leaves each of her four daughters a personal letter as well as a notebook with her thoughts and advice, hoping to help guide them after she's gone. Jennifer is wound up tight and stifled by her marriage, while Lisa is incapable of making a commitment. Amanda is adrift, wandering around the globe, distancing herself from the family and Hannah is only a teenager, yet to even fall in love. Will having their mother's letters and book help or hinder and will they follow her advice? 

Lydia - 4 Star

Once I got over the sensitive subject matter that caused tears spring to my eyes on more than one occasion in the beginning, I thoroughly enjoyed Things I Want My Daughters To Know. It was sensitive, the characters relatable and the plot rolled along smoothly.

There was enough intrigue surrounding the daughter’s lives to keep me interested and I enjoyed the exploration of their relationships especially with their age differences. Even though I only have brothers I found could still relate to their relationships which I have had a hard time with some novels in the past about sisters.

The letters from their mum were so heartfelt and brought tears to my eyes on numerous occasions and I felt the love for her daughters and them for each other over and over again – even their stepfather’s character was brimming with it.

I couldn’t find much to complain about with Things I Want My Daughters To Know. It won’t be added to my Top 10, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Kathryn - 4 Star

From the title I knew that this was probably going to tug a little and it definitely made me cry for about the first 50 pages. Just feel it’s fair to warn people! However after that start I only got teary a couple more times so keep reading…

The story is about a mother who is terminally ill and leaves her four daughters each a personal letter and a notebook with her random thoughts and pieces of advice for their futures. The notebook moves the story along as her thoughts to her daughters cover everything from her initial meeting with their stepfather (or father depending on the daughter) to how she felt when each of them was born. It addresses her feelings about her four very different daughters and made me want to write things down now too.

There were a couple of points I felt were rushed through which was disappointing - but it only bothered me for moments and I don’t want to ruin anything by telling you what those were! I think that I really enjoyed the novel because Elizabeth Noble was very clear about the personalities of each and every person in the book. I like to be able to picture people, places and fill in their pasts and she certainly made that possible. I thought it was nice that the second husband was much younger. I also liked that that meant that the daughters were spanning a few decades in age which added an extra dimension to the story and their relationships with each other.

All in all I really enjoyed Things I Want My Daughters To Know despite the crying!

Connect with Elizabeth Noble:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Insider Dating by Jennifer O'Connell

3 Star

Recently divorced Abby Dunn has discovered a way to put her financial background to good use. When she develops a dating database, where all the men are rated and ranked to help women not repeat the same dating disasters, she's flooded with requests. Then she meets a man who seems far too perfect and begins obsessing about finding his hidden flaws, undermining her second chance at love. 

Lydia - 3 Star

I enjoyed Insider Dating and felt the main character’s quest was an original idea. The story wasn’t entirely predictable which is always nice and although I’m not sure I entirely related to Abby’s character at first, something kept me reading so towards the end of the novel I was rooting for her, even with her misguided efforts.

This chick lit novel was written well and was a quick, easy read. It flows well and there is enough action to keep it moving along quickly. It was written in the first person, which somehow always makes me enjoy these novels more (which is something I never realized until we started writing chick lit reviews).

Abby’s thoughts about her marriage ending were an interesting insight into why marriages sometimes fall apart and I agree with Kathryn, it was nice that her marriage just fell apart without any cheating spouse. I enjoyed her friend’s characters but thought that some further characterization of them might have made them more dynamic.

Overall, Insider Dating is an enjoyable read that was neither terrible nor one of my favourites, but I would definitely read another Jennifer O’Connell book in the future.

Kathryn - 3 Star

My first thoughts on Insider Dating were mixed as I wasn’t sure I could really relate to the main character. As I kept reading I decided that it was a pretty good concept for single girl lit and that that overrode the lack of initial connection to the characters.

We are following the story of Abby Dunn, who divorced a year ago, and is trying to sort through her feelings as to why her marriage ended. I was impressed that we weren’t given the cookie cutter version of events that so many novels rely on these days. It’s not over because of a cheating husband but it is her husband that decides to leave. Abby comes back to this several times throughout the story and eventually I think finds some peace in understanding that her marriage ending was inevitable. In the meantime she’s come up with a brilliant idea to sort out (as in a database) the “good” men from the “bad”- in terms of their relationship potential. It has a big city feel (although nicely not set in New York) which I liked. I also thought it was a nice touch that her friends are smart and sophisticated and that they were not in each others pockets all the time. Not sure why that appealed to me!?!

All in all I enjoyed it although I think there was potential for more somehow? At the end I felt as if I hadn’t been given the whole story. But it was an easy, light read with a different concept to keep it flowing.

Connect with Jennifer O'Connell:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Wedding Party by Sophie King

4 Star

An interwoven tale of family, friends and strangers in this novel brings together many different characters.  Monique and Geoff are getting married later in life and causing some problems for their families along the way.  Having a wedding planner who has no clue what she's doing certainly isn't helping the show run smoothly. In fact, the whole thing may never happen at all. 

Lydia - 4 Star

I enjoyed The Wedding Party which is typical of British Lit and/or British Chick Lit where there are multiple characters, told from all of their points of view in the third party and revolves around a small town where most of the characters know each other or have threads that tie them together.

This story was well told, each individual character was well defined and the transition from one character to another in chapter form left me wanting to continue each of their stories. I did get a little tired of the story suddenly jumping forward in time when each character’s thread continued and we were ‘told’ in some recap form of what happened. I didn’t notice this until much later in the story however and it didn’t bother me for long, and I’m hoping I’m the only one that notices this.

I enjoyed the plot with all it’s twists and turns and was surprised at the ending which is always nice and enjoyed the characters, although didn’t fall in love with any one of them. If you love British Chick Lit of the above described style, you should enjoy The Wedding Party!

Kathryn - 4 Star

I really enjoyed The Wedding Party! There were multiple characters, lots of separate story lines and many different sub-stories but it wasn’t confusing! Sophie King was very careful that the different voices were clearly defined at the beginning of each section, it may have taken me a moment to remember who each one was but I was completely hooked only a short way into this novel.

There is a daughter, Becky, whose parents are divorced and her father is remarrying- someone she doesn’t like. Her mother is also dating someone but doesn’t seem too keen to remarry herself- instead she’s interested in one of her clients. Becky’s friend Janie has just been fired from her wedding planning assistant’s job and decided to set up her own business. Unfortunately Janie is a little scatter-brained and her business partner is not much more organized. Lastly there is the vicar, set to perform her father’s second marriage, has her own set of problems.

Each character was alive for me and I loved every one of them. I was disappointed when it ended!

Connect with Sophie King:


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